Different Types of Piping for Plumbing in Your Home
Household leaks in the average US home waste up to 10,000 gallons of water every year. 10% of homes even waste 90 gallons a day, summing up to almost 30,000 gallons of wasted water each year.
To prevent such waste, always monitor the piping for plumbing used in your home. The pipes that serve as your water delivery and distribution lines may now be leaking. If you see visible leaks, such as those from faucets, have them fixed or replaced ASAP.
It’s best, however, to know the exact plumbing piping type that you’re having issues with. This will help you decide whether to fix or replace them.
The Different Types of Materials Used in Outside Water Supply Lines
Over a third of all owner-occupied homes in the US have been around before 1970. If yours is one of these, and you’ve never had it re-piped, you likely have galvanized steel water pipes. You may also have copper pipes if you live in an older home. Newer homes, on the other hand, typically have plastic pipes or PVC.
The term “galvanized” refers to the method of applying a protective coating to steel. The coat itself consists of zinc, which has a considerable corrosion-reducing effect. Half of all zinc produced in the world goes towards galvanizing steel.
Galvanized pipes, however, can still corrode over time, especially the ones outdoors. The buried ones can also rust through from inside out or due to the soil’s moisture content. On average, though, galvanized pipes that deliver water lasts for about 40 years.
If your home still has its original galvanized steel water pipes, it may be time for an upgrade. This is especially important if the lines are rusting from within. Ultimately, the pipes can burst or, at the very least, develop cracks that leak precious water.
Like galvanized steel, copper was also standard plumbing materials prior to the 70s. A study in Flint, MI, in fact, found that after 1951, over 97% of the assessed homes had copper pipes.
One reason for the use of copper in water pipes is its rigidity and resistance to corrosion. As such, plumbers often used copper pipes to connect buried water service lines. However, some soil conditions, such as the presence of certain salts, can still damage it.
Copper water supply pipes can also degrade from within, often due to the pH level of the water. A pH level of less than 7.0 (acidic water) or over 8.5 (alkaline water) can corrode the pipe from inside. A large amount of dissolved oxygen and salts can also cause internal rusting on these pipes.
Note that corroded copper pipes can leach a lot of copper into your drinking water. Drinking this, in turn, may result in health effects like vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Infants, babies, pregnant women, nursing moms, and the elderly are also at a higher risk.
One way that you can tell you have copper pipes (and corroded ones at that) is if you see blue or green stains on fixtures. You may notice these on kitchen and bathroom taps, sinks, tubs, toilets, and showerheads. High levels of copper in the water can also give it a noticeable green or blue color.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
PVC pipes are among the most common pipes used in homes and irrigation systems today. If you have a pool or a spa, they likely have PVC connections with them. These plastic water supply pipes are often white, but you’ll also find them in other colors, like dark gray.
PVC pipes also have “schedules,” which refer to their thickness. Schedule 40 pipes, the most common, are those that can deliver cold water. Schedule 80 pipes (often the dark gray ones) have thicker walls and can deal with higher pressures.
Please note that some places in the US don’t permit the use of plastic pipes for water supply. As such, it’s best to check with your local building department first.
Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride (CPVC)
CPVC pipes, like PVC, are also plastic pipes that deliver water supply above and below grade. CPVC, however, can withstand higher temperatures and greater pressures than standard PVC. As such, many manufacturers rate them suitable for both hot and cold water uses.
As with PVC pipes, regulations on the use of CPVC for water delivery also varies across the US. You might want to consider hiring professional plumbers for the project instead. Local plumbers have a complete understanding of plumbing regulations in your area.
Cross-Linked Polyethylene (PEX)
PEX, like PVC and CPVC, is another type of plastic water supply line. You can find these both outside and inside homes throughout the US. They are also suitable for above ground and underground plumbing applications. One thing to keep in mind is that PEX pipes deteriorate when exposed to direct sunlight. Ultraviolet radiation can make them break down in just a few months.
As such, you may only be able to use PEX pipes if they will go underground. Some manufacturers also produce PEX pipes with UV shields or protective surfaces. PEX tubing boasts of a very flexible and resilient material. This gives it a higher resistance to breakage and freezing. Compared to copper or PVC pipes, the PEX ones are less prone to bursting.
Another advantage of PEX over traditional pipes is that its safety for use with hot water. It also doesn’t rust, and it also resists scale buildup better than other materials. Moreover, PEX is more cost-effective compared to copper pipes. As such, it’s no wonder that the global PEX industry has an estimated value of $5.5 billion. Experts also say that, by 2025, it will grow into a $7.7 billion sector. North America is one of the major consumers of PEX materials.
However, since PEX is also plastic, governing bodies also regulate its use. Always check with your local building agency before installing PEX water pipes. Or, you can simplify things by hiring a local professional plumber.
What Type of Pipe You Need Based on Its Use
What you need the pipe for has a direct influence on the exact type of pipe you must get and install. That’s because pipes have various ratings for pressure and temperature. Professionals in the industry often refer to this as the “P-T Rating.” Here’s a quick overview of which pipes you should get for which use or application.
Again, depending on where you live, copper, PVC, CPVC, and PEX can deliver drinking water. However, manufacturers of PVC pipes only often rate their products for cold water use. That’s because heat can affect the integrity of the plastic used in PVC pipes.
If your home still uses galvanized steel, you may still repair minor problems with it. This only applies to cases wherein the majority of the pipes are in good condition. Plumbers can fix small issues with the use of cut and threaded galvanized pipes.
If you have corroded galvanized steel or copper pipes, it’s time to think about replacing them. They can make your drinking water not just taste bad, but also put you and your family at risk of health conditions.
Non-potable water refers to water that you don’t drink. This includes water that you use for hygiene, washing the dishes, and doing the laundry. A garden irrigation system also uses non-drinking water.
All types of pipes we mentioned above can carry and supply non-potable water into your home. However, there are strict regulations for labeling pipes, especially plastic ones. There must be a clear label on these pipes if you use them for both drinking and non-drinking water.
Unless rated otherwise, PVC is the only pipe in this list that you may not be able to use for hot water. However, you may still find PVC pipes rated for hot water use, such as the schedule 80 variants.
CPVC pipes, on the other hand, often come rated for hot water applications. That’s because they undergo an extra chlorination process. This allows them to withstand higher maximum temperatures of up to 200 F.
White and gray PEX pipes are also often safe for use in hot water applications. However, you can go with red PEX pipes, the color of which is a clear indication that the tube carries hot water.
The Different Home Systems That Rely on Each Pipe Type and Drain
All types of pipes discussed above can serve as a home’s water supply plumbing system. Aside from the kitchen, they also deliver water to bathrooms and laundry rooms. If you have a pool at home, then these pipes are also the source of your pool water. The same goes for your garden sprinklers. However, these pipes have other uses outside of supplying water to your home. Here’s a quick look at some of them.
Drain lines are the pipes that carry used water and waste from your home to the main drain. The main drain then connects to either an on-site septic tank or the municipal sewer line. About a quarter to a third of US homes relies on septic tanks, the rest of which on city sewer systems. PVC pipes often serve as the drain lines for sinks, toilets, and bathtubs. Many homes also have vent stacks made primarily of PVC pipes.
You can use CPVC as the replacement for copper pipes. It’s also the typical go-to for applications where you want to use PVC but can’t. For instance, you can have CPVC pipes serve as your hot water drain lines. In addition, you can install CPVC pipes for waste and water disposal systems.
The Common Types of Pipes You’ll Find Going in and Out of Your Home
Metal, PVC, or CPVC pipes often make up a bulk of a home’s plumbing system. This is especially true for PVC, as its use can be for water service and distribution. PVC pipes also often make up a considerable portion of Drain-Waste-Vent systems.
There are several other types of pipes, such as stainless steel, cast iron, and brass, which may also be in your home. You may find these running from the outside to the inside of your home. They often serve as a water distribution system.
In addition, you may find acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) piping in and out of your home. This is a type of plastic piping that looks like PVC but is black. It’s well-known for its long lifespan, but its use is only for drain and waste lines.
How to Troubleshoot Problematic Piping in Plumbing Systems
The easiest way to troubleshoot your water lines is to monitor your water meter. This is a good way to determine if you have a leak that you can’t find (e.g., no visible leaky faucets). The water meter may be outside your home; you may find it on the curb just in front of your property. If it’s not there, it may be in your basement, on an area of a wall near the floor junction. If you still can’t find it, check your laundry room or the exterior walls of your home.
Once you locate the water meter, ask everyone to stop using the water as you do the test. Shut off every faucet, fixture, and water-using appliance. At this point, the water meter should no longer move. In an older analog meter, you can see this right away if the gauge uses a pin. If you have a digital meter, you may have to wait for about an hour to see if there’s a change in the reading.
If the pin moves or you see the numbers change, it likely means you have a leak. As for other water issues, the clarity, taste, and smell of the water are both dead giveaways. If you have colored water running out of your taps, then you may have contaminated water. If the water has sediments in it, you likely have hard water.
How to Keep Your Water Lines Clean
The easiest way to keep your water lines clean is to invest in a water treatment system. These may include water softeners, filtration units, distillation systems, or reverse osmosis. Your local plumber can even help you set up an ultraviolet sterilization system.
Protect Your Home By Maintaining Your Plumbing Pipes
There you have it, your complete guide on the different types of piping in plumbing systems. Now that you know what they are, you can make a more educated decision when it comes to fixing or replacing them. The most important thing is never to delay repairs or changes, as you may end up with a water-damaged home.
If you’re in need of professional plumbing help, please know that our team here at United Air Temp can help. Get in touch with us now, and we’ll be happy to answer any plumbing questions you have!